Western News – Touchscreens and milkshakes: Western study reveals more about brain's reward systems – Western News
Using strawberry milkshakes, mouse models of disease, cutting-edge fibre optic technology and touchscreens, researchers at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry have gained a better understanding of our brain’s reward networks. And in doing so, they are paving the way to new treatments for addiction and neuropsychiatric disease, such as schizophrenia, depression and Parkinson’s disease.
“Our brains have reward systems: interconnected networks of brain cells that motivate us to seek the rewards that are basic to our survival, such as sex, food, drink, and social interactions,” said Miguel Skirzewski, lead author on a new study that recently appeared in Nature Communications.
Much of our behaviour can be traced back to activities in these networks, said Skirzewski, a research associate at Robarts Research Institute.
“These networks allow us to predict when rewards will happen, so we can design strategies and make decisions,” said Skirzewski. “Understanding these networks is essential to understanding how we function in the world.”
In a number of disorders, these reward networks are hijacked by addiction to drugs or alcohol, or compromised, as is the case with schizophrenia, depression and Parkinson’s disease.
Skirzewski and collaborators from Western’s BrainsCAN-funded Mouse Translational Research Accelerator Platform (MouseTRAP) used a touchscreen-based mouse testing system developed by Robarts scientists Tim Bussey and Lisa Saksida to gather the data.
Mice were trained to use images presented on a touchscreen to predict when a strawberry milkshake reward would be delivered. During the exercise, researchers, using fibre optic methodologies, recorded rapid changes in specific neurochemicals used for communication between brain cells.
Some of the mouse models had deficits in the secretion of acetylcholine – a type of chemical messenger that plays an important role in learning and memory – and failed to perform in this exercise. The researchers discovered that the neurochemicals dopamine and acetylcholine – both implicated in neuropsychiatric disease — rapidly influence each other to support the prediction of a reward.
“In our study, mice learned whether certain cues, such as an image on the screen, helped them to predict rewards,” Skirzewski said. “This is a basic phenomenon known as Pavlovian conditioning, which is disrupted in many psychiatric disorders, in which the circuits that underlie reward prediction are thought to be compromised.”
Skirzewski said these tests can be easily adapted to humans and provide the insights needed to help understand a number of neuropsychiatric conditions.
“The brain processes information through these networks,” he said. “There is interaction between these different networks, which are all constantly talking to each other and affecting behaviours. One brain network does not control only one type of behavior. With this methodology, we can detect how different brain networks interact.”
The research has implications for the way drugs are developed for neuropsychiatric disease, an enterprise which has met with limited success. Skirzewski cites treatments for multiple brain diseases.
“In the past, scientists tested treatments in animals, and got a positive result, but not necessarily because they understood how these treatments worked. Most drugs in use were created by trial and error. With this approach, we can now understand mechanisms of disease at the molecular and circuit level,” he said.
“By understanding what is happening in the brain from a network perspective, we are now approaching drug development in a different way. It will help make the development of new therapeutic approaches much more efficient.” – Miguel Skirzewski, lead author of study and research associate at Robarts Research Institute
This cutting-edge technology, including touchscreens, fibre photometry and mouse models of disease like those used in this study are available to Western and Canadian researchers through BrainsCAN’s Mouse Translational Research Accelerator Platform (MouseTRAP).
Planets on parade: 5 will be lined up in night sky this week – Ottawa.CityNews.ca
Keep an eye on the sky this week for a chance to see a planetary hangout.
Five planets — Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Uranus and Mars — are scheduled to line up near the moon.
WHERE AND WHEN CAN YOU SEE THEM?
The best day to catch the whole group is Tuesday. You’ll want to look to the western horizon right after sunset, said NASA astronomer Bill Cooke.
The planets will stretch from the horizon line to around halfway up the night sky. But don’t be late: Mercury and Jupiter will quickly dip below the horizon around half an hour after sunset.
The five-planet spread can be seen anywhere on Earth, as long as you have clear skies and a west view.
“That’s the beauty of these planetary alignments. It doesn’t take much,” Cooke said.
DO I NEED BINOCULARS?
Maybe. Jupiter, Venus and Mars will all be pretty easy to see since they shine brightly, Cooke said. Venus will be one of the brightest things in the sky, and Mars will be hanging out near the moon with a reddish glow. Mercury and Uranus could be trickier to spot, since they will be dimmer. You’ll probably need to grab a pair of binoculars.
If you’re a “planet collector,” it’s a rare chance to spot Uranus, which usually isn’t visible, Cooke said. Look out for its green glow just above Venus.
DOES THIS HAPPEN OFTEN?
Different numbers and groups of planets line up in the sky from time to time. There was a five-planet lineup last summer and there’s another one in June, with a slightly different makeup.
This kind of alignment happens when the planets’ orbits line them up on one side of the sun from Earth’s perspective, Cooke said.
Joint NASA, CNES Water-Tracking Satellite Reveals First Stunning Views – Space Ref
The Surface Water and Ocean Topography mission offers the first taste of the detailed perspectives of Earth’s surface water that its cutting-edge instruments will be able to capture.
The international Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission – led by NASA and the French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) – has sent back some of its first glimpses of water on the planet’s surface, showing ocean currents like the Gulf Stream in unprecedented detail. SWOT is also capturing views of freshwater features such as lakes, rivers, and other water bodies down to about 300 feet (100 meters) wide.
The satellite will measure the elevation of nearly all the water on Earth’s surface and provide one of the most comprehensive surveys yet of our planet’s surface water. SWOT’s measurements of freshwater bodies and the ocean will provide insights into how the ocean influences climate change and the water cycle; how a warming world affects water storage in lakes, rivers, and reservoirs; and how communities can better manage their water resources and prepare for floods and other disasters.
“SWOT’s advanced imagery will empower researchers and advance the way we manage fresh water and the effects of sea level rise across the globe,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Water is one of our planet’s most important resources – and it’s proven to be vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. SWOT will provide critical information that communities can use to prepare for the impacts of a warming climate.”
A Whole New View
As seen in these early images, on Jan. 21, 2023, SWOT measured sea level in a part of the Gulf Stream off the coast of North Carolina and Virginia. The two antennas of SWOT’s Ka-band Radar Interferometer (KaRIn) instrument acquired data that was mapped as a pair of wide, colored strips spanning a total of 75 miles (120 kilometers) across. Red and orange areas in the images represent sea levels that are higher than the global average, while the shades of blue represent sea levels that are lower than average.
For comparison, the new data is shown alongside sea surface height data taken by space-based instruments called altimeters. The instruments – widely used to measure sea level – also bounce radar signals off of Earth’s surface to collect their measurements. But traditional altimeters are able to look only at a narrow beam of Earth directly beneath them, unlike KaRIn’s two wide-swath strips that observe sea level as a two-dimensional map.
The spatial resolution of SWOT ocean measurements is 10 times greater than the composite of sea surface height data gathered over the same area by seven other satellites: Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, Jason-3, Sentinel-3A and 3B, Cryosat-2, Altika, and Hai Yang 2B. The composite image was created using information from the Copernicus Marine Service of ESA (European Space Agency) and shows the same day as the SWOT data.
KaRIn also measured the elevation of water features on Long Island – shown as bright pink splotches nestled within the landscape. (Purple, yellow, green, and blue shades represent different land elevations.)
“Our ability to measure freshwater resources on a global scale through satellite data is of prime importance as we seek to adjust to a changing climate,” said CNES Chairman and CEO Philippe Baptiste. “In this respect, the first views from SWOT give us a clearer picture than ever before. These data will prove highly valuable for the international scientific community in the fields of hydrology, oceanography, and coastal studies.”
This initial inland image is a tantalizing indication of how SWOT can measure details of smaller lakes, ponds, and rivers in ways that satellites could not before. Such data will be used to produce an extraordinary accounting of the freshwater on Earth’s surface in ways useful to researchers, policymakers, and water resource managers.
“The KaRIn instrument took years to develop and build, and it will collect information on bodies of water across the globe – data that will be freely and openly available to everybody who needs it,” said Parag Vaze, SWOT project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
More About the Mission
Launched on Dec. 16, 2022, from Vandenberg Space Force Base in central California, SWOT is now in a period of commissioning, calibration, and validation. Engineers are checking out the performance of the satellite’s systems and science instruments before the planned start of science operations in summer 2023.
The data for these first images was collected by SWOT’s KaRIn instrument, the scientific heart of the satellite. KaRIn has one antenna at each end of a boom that’s 33 feet (10 meters) long. This enables the instrument to look off to either side of a center line directly below the satellite as it bounces microwave signals off Earth’s surface. The returning radar signals arrive at each antenna slightly out of sync, or phase, from one another. When these signals are combined with other information about the antennas and the satellite’s altitude, scientists will be able to map the height of water on Earth’s surface with never-before-seen clarity. KaRIn encountered an issue earlier this year with one of its subsystems; engineers have now resolved the situation, and the instrument is up and running.
SWOT was jointly developed by NASA and CNES, with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the UK Space Agency. JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, leads the U.S. component of the project. For the flight system payload, NASA provided the KaRIn instrument, a GPS science receiver, a laser retroreflector, a two-beam microwave radiometer, and NASA instrument operations. CNES provided the Doppler Orbitography and Radioposition Integrated by Satellite (DORIS) system, the dual frequency Poseidon altimeter (developed by Thales Alenia Space), the KaRIn radio-frequency subsystem (together with Thales Alenia Space and with support from the UK Space Agency), the satellite platform, and ground operations. CSA provided the KaRIn high-power transmitter assembly. NASA provided the launch vehicle and the agency’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center, managed the associated launch services.
To learn more about SWOT, visit: https://swot.jpl.nasa.gov/
Severe solar storm hits Earth, strongest in past 6 years – Indiatimes.com
The Earth witnessed a powerful solar storm in nearly six years, causing auroras all over the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said. NOAA had earlier announced moderate G2 storm and G3 conditions between March 23 and 25, but updated it to G4. A severe G4 storm can affect the power grid system with possible widespread voltage control problems; and spacecraft operations with increased possibility of surface charging, and atmospheric drag risk on Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites.
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